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Plane Mysteriously Vanishes During Its First Combat Mission – You Won’t Believe Where It Was Found

Plane Mysteriously Vanishes During Its First Combat Mission – You Won’t Believe Where It Was Found

The date is April 4th, 1943, and the war in
Europe is starting to turn in favor of the Allies. For years Germany and her Italian allies have
maintained an iron grip on Europe, and with the defeat of France early in the war and
the expulsion of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, Europe was effectively in
the iron grip of the Axis powers. For the Allies, things look grim- if they
are to be victorious then they must accomplish the daunting task of landing forces in Europe,
yet the Germans have reinforced any possible landing sites, and establishing a foothold
in the continent will be a bloody and costly affair. To date though Italian forces have performed
exceptionally poorly in combat against the Allies. On the deserts and plains of northern Africa,
the Italians have been all but defeated, and leadership of the few remaining infantry divisions
and armored brigades has fallen squarely onto the Germans. Hitler no longer trusts the competency of
his Italian allies and has ordered that the Italian military no longer operate without
direct supervision of German commanders. Sensing the weakness of the Italian military,
it’s decided that the Allies will soon invade Italy itself in order to establish a foothold
on the European continent and force the Germans to divert forces from a second landing site
in northern France to Italy. In preparation for the coming operation, slated
for fall of 1943, the Allies have now begun an extensive bombing campaign against major
Italian cities and military facilities. On that fateful April 4th, several squadrons
of American and British bombers prepare for a bombing run against Naples, Italy. Escorted the entire way by fighters, Allied
bombers nonetheless protect themselves by flying in tight formations that allow each
aircraft’s gunners to support other friendly aircraft. The airfield at Soluch, a small airstrip outside
of Benghazi, Libya, only allows a few bombers to launch at a time though, and the aircraft
are thus launched in waves, with the last waves speeding up to catch up with the first
waves, then the entire strike force flies together towards its final destination. One of the last planes into the air is a brand
new B-24D Liberator nicknamed Lady Be Good, which carries a crew of nine American airmen. At the helm of the aircraft is 1st Lieutenant
William J. Hatton, with copilot 2nd Lieutenant Robert F. Toner. The Lady’s navigator is 2nd Lieutenant Dp
Hays who sits across from the bombardier, 2nd Lieutenant John s. Woravka. The aircraft’s flight engineer, Technical
Sergeant Harold J. Ripslinger, sits further back along the fuselage alongside the radio
operator, Technical Sergeant Robert E. LaMotte. Finally, the aircraft’s three gunners, Staff
Sergeants Guy E. Shelly, Vernon L. Moore, and Samuel E. Adams, protect the aircraft
from the top and the sides. As the Lady climbs into the skies over the
Sahara desert though strong winds have kicked up huge sandstorms and the visibility is nearly
null. With a low flight ceiling, the B-24D Liberators
are unable to fly above the worst of the weather and many of the bombers end up aborting their
mission and returning to base. The Lady however refuses to turn back, and
continues on towards her target in Naples. As she crosses over the Mediterranean though
the Lady is far behind the remains of the formation which has made it out of the Sahara,
and with a faulty automatic direction finder, 1st Lieutenant Hatton decides to turn the
plane around and head for home. As he makes the decision, Lt. Haddon radios
back to Soluch airfield and requests assistance, informing command that he is having a hard
time navigating in the dark. In order to assist the incoming Lady, soldiers
at Soluch shoot up flares into the night sky, but the Lady ultimately overshoots the airfield. With no radio contact, several hours later
and long after her fuel supplies would have run out, the Lady and her crew are declared
missing in action, and a search for the aircraft is launched. The best that the American air force officials
can determine is that the Lady crashed somewhere in the Mediterranean, and thus focus their
efforts there. Fast forward to November 1958 and British
geologists working for the D’Arcy Oil Company are flying over the Sahara on a surveying
mission when they spot the wreckage of a crashed plane. They immediately radio the nearby American
Wheelus Air Force Base, but with no record of an American plane having been lost recently
in the area, the report is ignored. The same survey team spots the aircraft on
numerous follow-on aerial surveys, and finally a year later D’Arcy Oil Company dispatches
a ground team to investigate the crash site. Heading the ground team is D’Arcy surveyor
Gordon Bowerman, who happens to be a close friend of Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Kolbus,
commander of Wheelus Air Base. Discovering the plane largely intact, Bowerman
collects maintenance inspection records from the aircraft as well as the names of her missing
crew from clothing and other equipment scattered throughout the interior of the aircraft. Upon returning to Wheelus Air Base, Bowerman
shows his discovery to Kolbus, who immediately realizes that this must be a lost American
aircraft from World War II. A team made up of officials from both Wheelus
Air Base and the Army Quartermaster Mortuary in Frankfurt, Germany, immediately conduct
an expedition to the crash site, hoping to recover the remains of lost American airmen. For three months the American military investigates
the crash site and conducts extensive searches of the surrounding desert. Jeeps scour the Saharan plains while aircraft
provide aerial reconnaissance overhead, all hoping to recover the remains of the missing
crew. With no parachutes discovered in the wreck
it’s believed that the men safely bailed out, but with her crew listed as missing in action
for almost two decades, the search teams are now looking for remains they can bring back
home to family members. The search crews are also determined to bury
their missing comrades from the bygone war with full military honors. After three months of searching though the
brutal Saharan environment is taking a serious toll on the equipment and men of the search
teams both. Ultimately the search is abandoned, though
the teams did manage to recover some of the crew’s equipment to include parachutes, flight
boots, and arrowhead markers, which the crew had used to mark their trail as they made
their way across the Sahara. It is decided that the search will be called
off though due to the probability that the shifting sands have already covered up the
remains, and for fear of endangering the lives of the men on the search teams. Where the American search teams failed though,
British Petroleum employees would succeed. Just six months later surveyors from British
Petroleum discover the remains of five crew members and officials from the Army Quartermaster
Mortuary return to Libya to collect the remains. Along with the remains though are more personal
items to include canteens, flashlights, pieces of parachutes, and flight jackets. A diary belonging to Lt. Robert Toner is also
discovered, and its pages are still clearly legible. Within its pages the young Lieutenant chronicles
his final days and increasing hopelessness and weakness,with his final entry dated Monday
the 12th, April 1943. It reads simply “No help yet” and is followed
by a few illegible words. The discovery of five of the nine airmen spurs
the military to try one more time for the recovery of the last four missing crew members. This final search is codenamed Operation Climax
and brings in assets from both the air force and the army. After months more of searching, two more crew
members are found, Sergeant Shelly and Sergeant Ripslinger. The search for the last two crewmembers is
regrettably canceled, the American military having exhausted all options available. In August 1960 though British Petroleum employees
would find one more crew member, Lieutenant John Woravka, whom is believed to be the only
crew man that did not link up with the rest of the group after bailing out of the aircraft. Sadly the remains of Sergeant Vernon Moore
were never found. The military thus began to reconstruct the
events that led to the downing of Lady Be Good. It is believed that after overshooting her
airfield, the lady began to run out of fuel. Given that the crew was relatively green and
had little experience, the malfunctioning direction finder and the fact that it was
night spelled disaster for the men. Worse, the pitch-black night and the poor
visibility led the men to believe that they were flying over the Mediterranean, which
explains why they did not attempt to simply land the plane. Instead all nine men bailed out of the aircraft,
though one of the nine’s parachute failed to open properly and he fell to his death. Another man, Lieutenant Woravka falls far
off course and lands too far away to link up with the rest of the crew. On the ground seven survivors made their way
together northwards, hoping to run into civilization. With only half a canteen of water on each
man though, five soon became too exhausted to continue and were left behind as the other
two pushed on, hoping to find rescue for those they had to leave behind. The desert would claim them all, though incredibly
Sergeant Ripslinger’s remains would be found a whopping two hundred miles away from the
crash site. An inspection of the plane’s wreckage would
find that it was stocked with survival supplies, to include rations and water. The radio was also found to be in working
condition, and it is believed that if the men had remained with their aircraft they
could very well have survived their ordeal. However, believing that they were flying over
the Mediterranean and not over the flat plains of the Sahara, the men made the fateful decision
to bail out, a mistake which would cost them all their lives. What would you have done if you were stuck
in the middle of the desert with no food and little water? Let us know in the comments, and as always
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Reader Comments

  1. The infographics show is so lazy they haven't uploaded a video in 7 whole minutes! truly unacceptable

  2. If I was trapped in the desert with no water and no food I will just enjoy the beautiful sights before my time was up

  3. I would run as fast as I could all night toward the plane. If the sun came up before I found it, I would use my parachute as protection from the sun, build a simple shelter and wait until night to proceed again.

  4. I watched a whole thing on this years back. Yeah not only did their bodies sink in the sand…the shifting sands actually pulled them apart. sad 🙁

  5. What would I do? Why die of course… Just like they did. You're only hope would that nowadays Search & Rescue is way more sophisticated than it was back then

  6. Stuff like this has been depressing to hear about ever since my brother joined the army. The pain of the families.

  7. That is awesome how we put the manpower into that leave no man behind. I do feel that the call to declare them mia and what they did at that time was a bad decision thou if your navigation is off you dont assume that there in one area you assume they can be in any area

  8. Ya see I would’ve been the one saying “let’s check the plane for supplies before we jump out” so yeah they didn’t seems to think ahead sadly

  9. Why the clickbaity title…. Your vids are typically very awesome: you won't believe how petty i am in my downvotes regardless of content, my rating will shock you.

  10. A bulelt or two to head is a fate far more welcome to this if I were ever to go to war. I remember, 3 of our elite soldiers made their way back to India after their bombing craft was shot down in '65 war with Pakistan.

  11. I’m a pure blooded Hawaiian warrior. I would’ve sought out enemy forces and ate em! Absorbing their mana to give me sustenance to reach civilization. I’d wear their bones with pride like my ancestors before me! 🦴🍖🥩🍗😋

  12. Wait. The plane crashed in the sahara but sahara is a hot desert and there's sand. The planes don't breaks if it lands in sand. FAKE NEWS

  13. I would do my traditional way as an Arabic survives all seasons and climate Because actually we are all about Deserts and we call the camel ship of the sahra 🐪✌🏼😎🇰🇼🇰🇼🇰🇼🇰🇼

  14. Antoine de St-Exupéry was another lost pilot during a lpane crash in 1944
    Quite the popular writer, his story is not exactly as epic as the one told here, but if you haven't you might like to talk about Antoine's crash as well

  15. 1:41 You misspelled Benghazi. I was going to say there does seem to be a random Arabic spelling of it being Binghazi, but even then you missed the "h".

  16. That is unfortunate. They should have stayed in the plane and would have made contact with a rescue. Working radio, water, food, first aid. What were they thinking?

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